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The Producers

Genre: Comedy/Musical
Rated: PG-13
Directed by
Released by:
Sony Pictures and Universal Pictures

In Short: The movie version of the Broadway musical adaptation of "The Producers" is a lifeless rehash of the Tony Award-winning show.

Mad Mugging With Murderous Results
How to Kill a Classic

By Jenny Peters

When the musical version of Mel Brooks' classic 1968 movie comedy "The Producers" opened on Broadway a few years ago, it was a smash hit, sweeping the Tony Awards, and is, in fact, still playing. Also written by Brooks, the play took the funny original story of a flamboyant show producer and a meek accountant who join forces in a scheme to make millions from producing a Broadway flop and hung a series of song-and-dance numbers onto it. That obviously worked on the stage, especially with Broadway veterans Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick in the leading roles of showman Max Bialystock and numbers-cruncher Leo Bloom. The problem is that they should have just let it be a legendary Broadway success, because the new movie version is a disaster.

From the moment Nathan Lane hits the screen, things turn sour. The normally charming and funny actor hasn't ratcheted down his stage performance an iota for the film version, resulting in an in-your-face, totally fake and downright embarrassingly overblown performance. Matthew Broderick soon joins him, right on the same page of over-acting, playing to the back row of the theater despite the fact that the camera is right in his face. It all feels tired, studied and rote, as if they have performed it so many times that it is impossible to make it fresh, funny or realistic. Together they actively mug their way through the interminable musical numbers, with tunes and moves that mostly come off as lame rehashes of older (and better) musicals made back in the Fifties.

On the up side, Uma Thurman looks good as the Swedish bombshell Ulla, but her one-joke character and intermittent accent make her little more than eye candy. At least Will Ferrell, as the Nazi-loving playwright of "Springtime for Hitler" (the planned flop that "The Producers" produce in the course of the story) keeps his German accent on track and actually has a couple of amusing moments. And Roger Bart, who was also part of the original Broadway cast and is now better known as George, the murderous pharmacist on "Desperate Housewives," makes the most of his role as an over-the-top gay assistant, despite the incredibly hokey (and ridiculously stereotypical) homosexual jokes he's forced to try and make funny. But overall the laughs are so few and far between in this excruciating flick that it is mind-boggling to imagine that comic genius Mel Brooks actually had a large hand in the writing.

Happily, it is still possible to enjoy "The Producers." It just isn't by seeing the new film. Instead, to experience the truly funny, classic version, rent the DVD of the 1968 movie, or if you really love musicals, take a trip to see the show on Broadway.

(Published: 12/22/05)

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